Tag Archive for Herbs

Homemade by Ena as well: garden and crafts

Food is not the only thing I make. I knit and crochet, and grow all kinds of produce in my garden. I decided that these things also deserve a place on my blog. Therefore you can expect regular garden updates from now on, and posts about finished knit/crochet projects.

At our new house we have a much larger garden than at our old house. But the person living here before us did not grow fruit, vegetables and herbs, so it will take loads of work to change part of the garden to a vegetable plot. We decided to wait with this big project until next year, so that we can get to know the garden this year, and will know better if the plans we have will work. For now, I created a small herb garden by removing some ornamental plants, and I will create some space for vegetables by moving some ornamental plants to other spots. I’m really happy that I do have the space to grow some (cutting) flowers, something I did not have in our old garden. I love flowers, but I always hesitate to buy them, so growing them myself would probably work very good.

The little herb garden I created; there is some space to sow a few more herbs when the weather is warmer.

The little herb garden I created; there is some space to sow a few more herbs when the weather is warmer. At the moment it contains thyme, rosemary, oregano, leaf celery, flat and curly parsley and chives. It all looks a bit barren because it still is quite early in the year, but the plants were outside the whole winter (in containers), so I expect them to survive.

The past few weeks there was a promotion where you got a small pot with earth and seeds at the supermarket. It's not great quality, but I've sown them anyway, and will see what comes of it.

The past few weeks there was a promotion where you got a small pot with earth and seeds at the supermarket. It’s not great quality, but I’ve sown them anyway, and will see what comes of it. And yes, I miss a few (I had quite some varieties double).


Generally I work on one crochet project and one knitting project at the same time, so that I can switch between them. I try not to work on more than two projects at a time, because I do like to finish things every once in a while. I’ve got quite a stash of beautiful yarns and a long list of projects for them, and it is lovely to finish something, but most of the fun is in the knitting/crocheting itself. I find it very relaxing.

Shell Mesh Scarf from 100% silk yarn (crochet)

My most recent finished project, a scarf from 100% silk yarn (crochet)

Italian pumpkin soup

A delicious autumn soup. Hearty, warming and bold of flavour. Sometimes pumpkin soup is icky sweet and lacks other flavours, but this soup certainly doesn’t. I’m not a big fan of cooking with wine, because you always only need a glass and have to finish the rest of the bottle in some other way, which often goes wrong around here. And the small bottles of wine generally aren’t that tasty. So usually I just omit the wine in the recipe without any problem, but this is an exception: the soup needs the acid and the complex flavours of the wine. Serve the soup with something cheesy, like cheese straws or cheesy croutons.

Italian pumpkin soup (serves 4)
Slightly adapted from James Martin

1 small pumpkin, peeled, seeds discarded, in large cubes (about 1 kg)
1 onion, roughly chopped
5 cloves garlic, peeled and slightly crushed
2 sprigs rosemary
1 tbsp olive oil
500 ml chicken stock (from a cube is fine
1 glass dry white wine
75 ml cream
Salt, pepper, chilli powder and lemon juice to taste

Preheat the oven to 220C.
Combine the pumpkin, onion, garlic and rosemary in a baking tray. Add the olive oil, mix until everything is coated. Roast for 30-40 minutes, or until the pumpkin is tender and nicely roasted. Mix halfway through the cooking time to ensure the bottom of the cubes roasts as well. This also prevents catching (pumpkin is quite sweet, which makes it prone to burning).
Meanwhile bring the stock to the boil. When the vegetables are cooked, put in a blender with the hot liquid and white wine (or use an immersion blender). Blend until smooth, then add the cream and return to the pan. Warm through on low heat, don’t let it boil. Taste, then adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, chilli powder and lemon juice to taste. Serve immediately.

Aioli and patatas bravas

I love garlic. I put it in most of my dishes, even when it shouldn’t be in there, and I always add more than prescribed in a recipe. I just love the flavour of it. I also like aioli, but the problem with making it yourself is the garlic. When you use raw garlic, the flavour tends to be a bit too pungent, also it makes your breath smell bad and you taste it for hours after eating it. But when you use roasted garlic, it tends to be too mellow, and roasting the garlic properly takes ages, a hot oven and loads of olive oil, which are three things you don’t want when you are making a light dip for some crudité on a hot summer day.
So when I got a tip from someone to dry-roast unpeeled cloves of garlic for a few minutes in a hot skillet, peel them after frying and smashing them with a bit of salt before adding it to a sauce, I was happy to give it a try. And I was happy that I did so, because I will not make my garlic sauces in any other way than this any more. It takes away the very harsh and pungent taste, but keeps the garlic flavour very well. And because the garlic becomes softer, it is easier to purée as well. I used it mixed with mayonnaise for an aioli, to serve with patatas bravas (Spanish spicy potatoes, although the way I make them is not very authentic), but there are loads of other possibilities. Mix it with yoghurt for a dip for crudité, with crème fraîche to accompany baked potato, with cream cheese for a sandwich/cracker spread, with butter and herbs for herb butter, etc.

Patatas bravas with aioli (serves 2)

500 g small potatoes
1 tbsp olive oil

4 tbsp mayonnaise
2 fat cloves of garlic, unpeeled
pimentón de la vera (smoky Spanish paprika powder, dulce and/or piccante)

Preheat the oven to 210C.
Place the potatoes in a pan, and pour water on top until just covered. Season with salt. Bring to the boil and cook until the potatoes are just soft/barely cooked. Drain and leave to steam for a few minutes in the pan without the lid, to get rid of the water. Pour in an oven tray, drizzle with the olive oil and season with salt. Place in the preheated oven and bake for about 45 minutes, or until golden and crisp.
Meanwhile make the aioli. Place a skillet on high heat. Put the unpeeled garlic cloves in and roast for a few minutes (it is fine when the peel gets burned, this gives extra flavour). Leave to cool for a bit, then peel and mash with some salt. Add to the mayonnaise. Season with the pimentón to taste.
Serve the aioli either mixed with the potatoes, or as a dip.
Note: for “normal” aioli, omit the pimentón.

Pearl barley risotto

Another simple stew, this time with pearl barley. Most people think that pearl barley is horrible, and indeed it is when you just boil it in water. But when you cook it in something flavourful, like this tomato broth flavoured with chorizo and rosemary, it turns into something delicious and comforting!

Pearl Barley Risotto

Pearl Barley Risotto (serves 4)
Adapted from BBC Good Food

200 g chorizo, sliced
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
300 g pearl barley
1 can chopped tomatoes (400 g)
2 chicken stock cubes
2 stalks rosemary
1 bay leaf

Heat a pan. Add the chorizo and fry until it starts to release its oil. Add the onion and fry for about 5 minutes, or until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and fry another minute. Add the pearl barley, chopped tomatoes, stock cubes, rosemary, bay leaf and 1 liter of water. Simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the pearl barley is tender. Add a little more water if necessary. Serve.

Courgette soup

Last year the courgette plants in our garden did not that well, but that still meant that they produced 2 or 3 courgettes a week. Maybe this year they will not do it that well again, but they also might be doing great. Either case, we will have lots of courgettes during the summer. So when I came about this recipe I thought I should try it: having more recipes for delicious food that use courgette prevents getting bored of them.
Courgette is quite a mild vegetable, so the soup itself is very mild and summery. Because it has some flour in it, and is blended and passed through a sieve it is very smooth and creamy. You can enhance this creaminess by adding some cream or crème fraîche. You can make the soup a bit bolder by adding something interesting, like blue cheese (f.e. gorgonzola) or crisped ham/bacon, or a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil. You could even serve it cold in small glasses as an appetizer.
By variating the kind of herb you use you can completely transform the character of this soup. I used chives and parsley (and would have added some chervil, but I didn’t have it on hand) for a garden style soup, by adding rosemary and sage you make it Italian, adding mint would be perfect when you serve the soup cold, you could even add coriander to give the soup an Asian vibe.

Courgette Soup

Courgette soup (serves 4)
Adapted from Allerhande

4 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 tbsp flour
800 g courgette, cubed
2 vegetable stock cubes
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp herbs, chopped

Heat the oil in a pan and fry the onion for about 4 minutes, or until soft and translucent. Add the flour and fry for another 2 minutes (the flour should not get any colour). Add the courgette and fry for another 2 minutes, stirring regularly. Add 400 ml water and the stock cubes, bring to the boil and simmer for about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and add the herbs. Take the pan from the heat and puree with a stick blender. Pour the soup through a sieve into another pan. Use a ladle or wooden spoon to push as much liquid through, but take care not to push through the fibery bits as well, because these are what you want to get rid of. Serve immediately, optionally with add-ins.

Lentil-potato salad

I often have a texture issue with pulses. They often are very mealy and mushy and icky. Part of that can be remedied by using the right pulses. The only lentil that works for me in non-soup/dhal dishes (for which I prefer orange lentils) is the black beluga lentil, because it stays whole during cooking and doesn’t get all mushy and starchy. Some people claim the same of puy lentils, but I really didn’t like those, so I stick with these. The other part of the remedy is making the correct dish. A bowl of plain lentils is boring, it needs something extra. This salad succeeds in that brilliantly, the creamy potato and sharp and tangy dressing complement the lentils perfectly, making this a delicious dish.

The temperature of this salad is kind of in between. The original recipe calls it “warm” and makes sure to keep the potato and lentils warm, but I don’t think that is necessary. Just make sure that your lentils and potatoes and dressing are ready at about the same time, mix them together and serve immediately. Also at room temperature I think this salad is lovely. The only things that don’t work are hot, and fridge-cold.

This salad is a delicious side with about anything. We ate it with a piece of salmon fillet, but it would also be delicious with roast chicken, pork chops or sausage. As with most things, a fried or poached egg on top is delicious; or chop some hard boiled eggs and stir them through, making it a stand-alone dish. It is also delicious as lunch, in that case store the dressing separate from the rest to prevent sogginess and making it possible to reheat the lentils and potato. It should keep for about 5 days in the fridge.

Lentil-Potato Salad (serves 4-6)
Slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 large shallot, halved
1 clove garlic, crushed then halved
4 sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
1 cup dry black lentils
salt and pepper

500 g baby potatoes, halved

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 large shallot, finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon smooth Dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive oil
4 tablespoons sour gherkins, chopped
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
salt and pepper

Cook lentils. Pick over and rinse lentils. Place them in a small/medium pan with the halved shallot, crushed garlic, thyme sprigs, bay leaf, some salt, some pepper and 4 cups of water. Simmer the lentils over medium heat for 25 to 30 minutes, until firm-tender. Check earlier than that, because some lentils cook faster than others. Drain and discard shallot, garlic, thyme and bay leaf.
Meanwhile, cook potatoes. In a separate pan, cover potatoes with 3 cm cold water. Set timer for 15 minutes, then bring potatoes to a simmer. When the timer rings, they should be easily pierced with a toothpick or knife. Again, check earlier than the 15 minutes, because different kinds of potatoes cook faster than others. Drain.
Make the dressing. Place the chopped shallot and red wine vinegar in the bottom of a small bowl and let sit for 5 minutes. Whisk in minced garlic, mustard, salt, pepper and olive oil. Stir in chopped gherkin and parsley.
Assemble salad. Place potatoes in serving bowl. Add lentils, dressing and combine. Adjust seasoning with additional salt and pepper if needed. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Cured Salmon with Pancakes and Beetroot

Tom Kerridge is an amazing chef. He elevates British pub food to very high standards in his gastropub with two michelin stars. He regularly cooks in Saturday Kitchen, after participating as a candidate (and winning) he judges Great British Menu, and recently his own programme was shown on the BBC. His combinations are surprising, sometimes even weird, but always delicious. The downside, his recipes are always very rich, and sometimes lack vegetables. This recipe (cured salmon and pancakes, the addition of beetroot was my own idea) was the first one I cooked from his book, and I was very happy with it. The salmon tasted amazing and very intense, and the pancakes were lovely and fluffy. The maple syrup gives it a hint of sweetness and the cream cheese adds creaminess and a little acidity. Together it works brilliant. We ate this as a main, but by stacking the pancakes with some salmon, a dollop of cream cheese and a drizzle of maple syrup, they would be great posh appetizers for parties. And the pancakes are also great for breakfast and brunch. I will certainly make this recipe again!

Variations for the cured salmon: juniper berries and gin, or dill and wodka. Remember, you have to start this dish 48 hours before you want to serve it!

Cured Salmon

Cured salmon with Pancakes and Beetroot (serves 4)
From Tom Kerridge’s Proper Pub Food

175 g brown sugar
165 g sea salt flakes
2 tbsp coriander seeds
2 x 300 g salmon fillet (with skin)
150 ml whisky

125 g flour
40 g sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
300 ml buttermilk (I used 4 tbsp greek yoghurt and a few drops of lemon juice combined with milk to get 300 ml in total)
50 g butter, melted
1 egg

400 g precooked beetroot, sliced
125 g fresh goats cheese
salt and pepper

cream cheese or creme fraiche, to serve
maple syrup, to serve

Line a non-metallic dish large enough for the fillets with clingfilm, leaving enough overhang to wrap around the fillets later on. Mix the brown sugar, sea salt and coriander. Spread a layer on the clingfilm and place a salmon fillet skin side down on top. Pour the whisky over it. Spread a layer of the salt-sugar mix onto the salmon, then place the other salmon fillet on top skin side up (flesh sides of the fillets facing each other). Put the remaining sugar-salt mix on top. Wrap it tightly in the clingfilm. My clingfilm immediately seemed leaky, so I placed the parcel into a ziplockback, pressed the air out and closed it, to make sure the fish really was tightly wrapped. Place in the fridge for 24 hours with a weight on top, then turn the parcel over, place the weight back on and leave for another 24 hours.
When ready to serve, unwrap the salmon, rinse and pat dry.
To make the pancakes, mix flour, sugar, salt and baking soda together. Mix buttermilk, butter and egg together. Add about half the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and give it a whisk. Then fold in the rest of the wet ingredients. Don’t overmix! It should be quite thick and a little lumpy. Set aside for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, thinly slice the salmon (discard the skin) and arrange pretty on a plate.
Then cook the pancakes. Heat a frying pan over low heat with a little oil. Add spoonfu1s of the batter and fry for about 2 minutes on each side until golden brown. Transfer to a plate (if you like you can keep them warm in a low oven) and cook the rest of the batter.
Mix the beets with salt and pepper and arrange the goats cheese on top.
Serve the salmon with some pancakes, a dollop of cream cheese, a drizzle of maple syrup and a scoop of beetroot salad.

Choux Gnocchi

Little pillows of deliciousness, nom! I never knew you could make gnocchi from choux dough, and that is a pity, because they are amazing. They are a lot lighter than potato gnocchi, and even lighter than ricotta gnocchi (but just as easy to prepare). They are great as a side dish with all sorts of things, for example roast chicken, pork or beef, but they actually go with virtually anything.

Choux Gnocchi (serves 2 generously)
Slightly adapted from Joe Pastry

55 g butter
125 ml water
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp sugar
70 g flour
2 eggs
1/4 cup grated cheese (I used parmesan, but all strong, hard cheeses work well)
1.5 tbsp chopped herbs (I like a combination of parsley and chives)
knob of butter (optional)
extra cheese, to serve (optional)

Combine the butter, water, salt and sugar in a sauce pan (I like to use an anti-stick one). Bring to the boil. Take off the heat, add the flour and stir well. Place back on low heat and keep stirring for 3 minutes. Take off the heat, pour over into a bowl and add the eggs one by one, stirring well until incorporated in between. Add the cheese and the herbs, stir well. Scoop into a pastry bag with only a coupler, or snip of the tip so that a hole of about 1 cm forms.
Bring a pan of water to the boil (it doesn’t have to be a very large one, since you’ll work in batches). Generously add salt. Hold the pastry bag over the boiling water, press about 1,5 cm batter out and “cut” it of with a knife. Repeat this until you have about 25 gnocchi in the water. This procedure is certainly the tricky part of the recipe, the steam is hot and dropping the choux pastry can cause a bit of a splash… so be careful! Boil the gnocchi for 3 minutes, then take them out and repeat with the rest of the batter.
Before serving you can either bake them in the oven with some cheese on top, or saute them with some butter. Both will make them even more puffy and will make the outside crispy.

Gram crepes with salmon

I’ve had a bag of gram flour in my pantry for quite some time now. It was a present, and I did not have any clue what to do with it. Luckily, nowadays you can find about anything on the internet. So that is how I found out that gram flour is also known as chickpea flour or as besan, and is widely used in Indian cooking, but also in some parts of France and Italy to make kind of a crepe. I decided to give the crepes a try.

The crepes worked out great, but I wouldn’t call them crepes. Crepes you can roll very easily, they are flexible, but these crepes are quite firm and when you bend them, they will break. So I didn’t roll for this dish, I stacked. The crepes are tender and have a mellow chickpea flavour, that matches well with all kind of other flavours, and you can also add herbs and spices to the batter. In this case I left the crepes plain and combined them with cream cheese, lemon, dill, lettuce, cucumber and smoked salmon. A delicious lunch!

Gram Crepes with Salmon

Gram crepes (about 4)

140 gram gram flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp oil (can be any kind, depending on what you serve with the crepes)
250 ml water
extra oil for frying

Mix the gram flour with the salt in a bowl. Add the oil, then slowly add the water while mixing, to form a smooth and quite runny batter. If it is too thick, it is difficult to bake nice thin crepes. Set aside 15 minutes.
Place a frying pan on medium heat, drizzle a little oil in it and spread out over the bottom of the pan. Stir the batter and pour a ladle in the frying pan. Quickly tilt the pan in all directions to spread out the batter. Cook about 3 minutes, then turn over and bake for about 1 minute. Repeat the process for the remaining batter. Keep warm between two plates and serve warm or at room temperature.

Pasta Pesto

For me, this is THE absolute summer dish. Why? Because I can only grow basil in summer. Nowadays there are only a few products that are truly seasonal (as in: you can only get hold of them in a certain season), most of the things are flown in from other parts of the world or they are grown in hothouses. This is not necessarily a good thing, since it is not very sustainable, but it does mean that when you crave something off-season, you can still buy it.

I never buy basil. Basil is a very vulnerable herb. This means that the cut variant is useless anyway, the taste diminishes just too fast. And the small plants you can buy are useless too, because they are grown much too fast. To get a lot of flavour in basil, it needs a long growth time. That is why I grow my own basil. It is very easy and a lot cheaper than buying the plants every time you need basil. I pour a layer of potting earth into an empty, washed yoghurt container, wet it well, sprinkle a layer of basil seeds on top and cover it lightly with a little more soil. I place the transparent lid of the yoghurt container on top to create a mini-hothouse and place it on a sunny spot. I make sure that it stays wet and I remove the lid when the plants start to emerge. Just keep watering the plant regularly until it is big enough to use (this takes about 6 weeks). I use the whole plant in one or two days, because the climate over here is not good for basil, so once I start picking, the plant dies anyway. That is why I try to sow some new basil every two weeks for a steady supply.

For me, pesto is one of the best ways to use basil. It is a very clean tasting dish in which all the ingredients shine. I think pesto should be made in a mortar and pestle, because making it in a food processor will give a different, less nice texture. Most Italian recipes advice to use an equal amount of two cheeses: parmezan and pecorino, but I like to use the grana padano from our local cheese monger; use what you like. It always takes a bit playing around, getting to know the amounts of everything you like to get a balanced pesto. This recipe is just a starting point from where you can find out your way of pesto. Just like the Italians, in Italy no two pesto recipes are the same!

Pasta Pesto

Pasta pesto (2 persons)
From ‘De Zilveren Lepel’

25 large leaves fresh basil
50-100 ml good extra virgin olive oil
40 g pine nuts
50 g cheese, grated (grana padano, or a mixture of parmesan and pecorino)
a small clove of garlic, peeled (optional, some people don’t like garlic in their pesto)

extra cheese to serve
200 gram spaghetti, cooked following instructions of the package
optional: grilled courgette or asparagus

Roast the pine nuts (this is not authentic, but I like how it brings out the flavour). Crush the garlic together with a little salt in a pestle and mortar. Add the roasted pine nuts, crush. Add the basil, crush into a fine paste. Add the olive oil, just enough to make a thick paste (some people like their pesto with a lot more oil). Stir the grated cheese trough and check if everything is in balance. Serve immediately with pasta, some extra cheese and vegetables.